Tim Blair

Feb 20, 2009

5 comments

No one loves the old show of force — or pre-emptive strike, if you will — quite as much as the wingnuts. Yesterday, within a day of Pure Poison’s launch, we witnessed an attempted display of such from a tetchy bunch of bloggers, whose semi-united front against the new site and its contributors ended up looking more like a throng of screechy, scrawny teenagers wielding flaccid sticks of rhubarb.

The assault was led by the increasingly petulant Tim Blair, and was notable for only one reason: his violation of the “Lifetime Blair Immunity” he granted Jeremy Sear last March:

” … under the terms of which [Jeremy] may continue to write whatever [he wishes] about me but I vow never to respond”.

Blair, whose obsessive interest in the Israel/Palestine conflict should surely have made him an expert on ceasefire violations by now, managed to hold out less than 11 months. Granted, that’s longer than he predicted the invasion of Iraq would last — but it’s a far cry from a “lifetime”, even for a bloke who only quibbles over numbers when it suits his prejudices.

A man of his word? More like a man of his hero John “Never Ever” Howard’s word.

The rest of his attack is the typical Blair tomfoolery: old, self-declared “victories” rehashed — including one over GrodsCorp blogger Bron, who has nothing to do with Pure Poison — and a stunningly disingenuous treatment of Jeremy Sear’s bullying analogy that would make even Godwin blush.

Which leads us to the next attacker: Skeptic Lawyer (aka Helen Demidenko Darville Dale), who links approvingly to Tim Blair’s piece but then, today, declines to publish the following comment from reader James Boag:

[…]
The main thrust of Tim’s criticism of Sear is that using the events of WWII in Eastern Europe as a means to self-promotion, or to prove a fatuous point, is always evil and wrong. Do you agree?”

(thanks, James, for the tip-off)

Clearly, The Hand that Signed the Paper‘s author has no sense of humour. Which makes her views on what constitutes a humorous blog all the more laughable. Dale is disappointed that Crikey has employed a bunch of bloggers from GrodsCorp — a site she calls “very, very unfunny” and whose contributors she describes as “bullying nitwits” and “among the nastier bunches floating around the Oz interwebs”.

Yet who do we find in Dale’s blogroll? None other than bullying nitwit Tim Blair who, in collusion with some of the “Oz interwebs'” most deranged bottom-feeders (including Andrew Bolt), has spent years trying to intimidate Jeremy Sear, prying into his private life, trying to damage his career, poking fun at his divorce and so on.

Jeremy is by no means the only person Blair, his winged monkeys and the blogosphere’s biggest creeps have targeted; and, needless to say, GrodsCorp has never involved itself in anything this disgraceful — but that’s beside the point.

The point, of course, is that gnashing one’s teeth about “nastiness” and “bullying” on the same page as a Tim Blair link is breathtaking in its hypocrisy.

As far as bottom-feeders go, little-known blogger J.F. Beck was the most unctuous to weigh in to yesterday’s Pure Poison attack. Beck’s blog has for years been little more than an exercise in ingratiating himself to Tim Blair with creepy personal pot-shots Jeremy Sear and ham-fisted attacks on Antony Loewenstein. Not surprisingly for someone of Blair’s ego, it seems to have worked — the two exchange links (and cuddly emails) with almost the same loving frequency as Blair and Bolt.

I won’t bother posting a link to Beck’s site because it (like the man himself, who all those years ago stalked Jeremy until he’d uncovered his identity) truly is a steaming pile of shit. But if you really must have a look at it, you can find a link in Legal Eagle’s blogroll at (gasp!) anti-bullying-humour-authority Helen Dale’s site.

Last, and most certainly least, a pathetic bankrupt you probably don’t care about had a crack too. But the less said about him, the better.

Blair yesterday claimed:

“Jeremy and co. have been throwing punches for years, but so far have never landed a hit”.

Readers of Pure Poison and the old Blair/Bolt Watch Project will, of course, make a more objective assessment of this than Tim. But to judge by the desperate and feeble attack of his hastily assembled strike force (UPDATE! UPDATE! UPDATE!) yesterday, I’d guess some anxious little birdies are anticipating some serious ruffling of feathers in the near future.

We look forward to rattling their cages.

Andrew Bolt

Feb 20, 2009

5 comments

The Herald Sun today reports on a legal case between a Queensland woman who was injured at a Victorian surf lifesaving competition and the St John’s Ambulance volunteers who she alleges caused her permanent physical injury.

Reading the report it’s very difficult to get a sense of who’s right and who’s wrong, and there are lots of details missing from the story that would assist in forming that judgement — but as this is a matter before the courts this scarcity of details is understandable. And because it’s a matter before the courts the Hun has quite sensibly disabled comments on the article “for legal reasons.”

But over at Andrew Bolt’s blog, legal reasons have been suspended. Bolt quotes a short passage from the Hun article (with even less detail than the article itself), adds a couple of lines of his own comment, and lets his commenters go crazy.

A plea to the chronically litiguous: when swimming, please put a sign on your back reading “rescue me at your peril”:

A Queensland woman given emergency first aid by St John Ambulance officers while visiting Victoria is suing and says her treatment was unlawful assault. Brodie Cambourne, 34, alleges volunteer medics permanently damaged her shoulder when they rushed to assist her at a Lorne surf carnival.

People like this endanger the rest of us by making volunteers feel too scared to help.

And crazy they go, making assumptions about the case (for and against the woman who is suing) with approximately zero actual knowledge of the case. Clearly legal reasons just don’t matter at Bolt’s corner of the Herald Sun website.

Andrew Bolt

Feb 20, 2009

5 comments

  1. Andrew Bolt agrees with a retired lawyer in a newspaper article that current Australian of the Year, Mick Dodson, should not be Australian of the Year because he was once called “dishonest” by a Supreme Court judge.
  2. One of Andrew’s commenters leaves this comment:

    But Andrew, the Court of Appeal has also branded you “at worst, dishonest and misleading and at best, grossly careless”. Do you hereby withdraw yourself from consideration for all future Australian-of-the-Years? — Rob

  3. Andrew Bolt hits back:

    The court was wrong, and I note you fail to show in what way I was dishonest – a charge I utterly reject. I’d say more, but that case proved to me that there are grave risks in criticising a member of the judicial fraternity. Now, back to this matter…

UPDATE: More info on Bolt vs. Teh Law in comments.

(Thanks to Bolt reader Rob, and Pure Poison reader MR)

Andrew Bolt

Feb 20, 2009

5 comments

Anybody who has been unlucky enough to spend time wading through the comment threads at Bolt or Blair’s blogs know that their commenters (supporters and opponents) can say some pretty poisonous things. However, the uneven moderation policy at both sites tends to filter out a lot of comments that are roughly critical of the writers, on the grounds that they use abusive language or that the commenter is “trolling” (repeating themselves over and over.) The hypocrisy is stark given that the same abusive language and trolling behaviours are apparent in (published) supportive comments.

The best part about all of this is that Bolta has the nerve to link commenting at his blog to exercising free speech! Hands up if you’ve ever had a comment rejected at his blog. Hands up if it was nowhere near as poisonous as a published comment who agreed with the writer.

And it’s not just moderation with extreme prejudice at play here. Comments at Bolt’s (not sure about Blair’s) are routinely “snipped” if Mr Bolt becomes bored with reading them, and comments at Bolt’s have even been outright edited for content. In that particular case, when the commenter in question asked for an explanation he was labelled a “troll” and told to go away.

So it’s time for Pure Poison to use the combined resources of its readership to collect the most poisonous examples of comments at the blogs of Andrew Bolt and Tim Blair. Every month I’ll kick off a comment thread where you can cut-and-paste the poisonous comments you find (try to include a link where possible.) Remember that we’re looking for poisonous comments from commenters who agree and disagree with Bolt and Blair.

I’ll place a link to this post at the top of the sidebar so it’s easy to find once it sinks down the page.

Have at it!

Tim Blair

Feb 19, 2009

5 comments

Tim Blair’s confidence regarding future disputes with Pure Poison is apparently based on his undefeated status in previous matches:

Jeremy and co. have been throwing punches for years, but so far have never landed a hit.

And if anyone was going to fairly and objectively evaluate the success of any particular criticism on The Blair/Bolt Watch Project, it would clearly be one of its targets. Tim says not one of the many retorts we published over the last year touched him – and who are we to argue? I mean, sure, we thought our posts made legitimate points and were fairly happy with them – but if tim himself disagrees, well, that settles it. Damn.

Still, you never know. One day we might get in a lucky punch. Stay tuned!

In other devastating news for this site, tim’s identified a WW2 analogy in my opening post, which means he wins the internets. Damn again. Ever have one of those days?

UPDATE: Just out of interest, which of the following do you think is more likely?

1. Tim Blair genuinely doesn’t understand that the analogy in my first post here is regarding the futility of appeasement, and whilst I’m clearly labelling him a bully (and boy do I have grounds), that’s not the same as calling him a Nazi; and he honestly missed the point of my post excoriating his dismissing thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters on the basis of one idiot with a Nazi sign and has somehow seriously concluded that this equalled some kind of call to appease Nazis (I’m “a selective Nazi opposer”!); or
2. He knows perfectly well what I said in both posts and is shamelessly misrepresenting them as a means of attacking me personally.

What do you think? Is he an incredibly shifty writer who treats every opponent – and his readers – with absolute contempt (option 2), or an earnest soul who just happens to be near-indescribably stupid (option 1)? If it’s the latter, should we lay off the poor lad?

Site news

Feb 19, 2009

5 comments

Some of you may have noticed that, although the four writers behind Pure Poison are clearly lefties from left-wing sites apparently dedicated left-wingedly to attacking conservative columnists (from the left), and although Pure Poison has thus far not criticised anyone who wasn’t a hardline conservative, the mission statement of the site claims that we’ll be taking polemicists from all sides of the political aisle to task when they write something stupid, disingenuous, or otherwise intellectually dishonest.

SO WHEN ARE WE GOING TO GET STUCK INTO PHILIP ADAMS/DAVID MARR/SCOTT BRIDGES?

This is where you come in. Tip-offs regarding shabby behaviour by published advocates of any political stripe are welcome and encouraged. Just because it’s Bolt or Blair who’ve historically raised my metaphorical goat (they’d have raised my literal goat if I had one), doesn’t mean I won’t happily get stuck into my own “side” when it lowers the standard of debate too.

Don’t assume we’ll look the other way. We might be shamelessly biased, but we’re not hypocrites. If we’ve missed some outrageous conduct that’s gotten your real or hypothetical livestock, let us know.

Jennifer Marohasy

Feb 19, 2009

5 comments

For pundits with an agenda to push, one of the best things about blogging has to be the fact that new posts appear at the top and old content just fades into the archives. Get something monumentally wrong? It’s no big deal, because if you keep cranking out more blog posts then the dodgy ones will sink to the bottom of the pile and be forgotten. Unless someone happens to keep track of these things and spread the word. And that’s a role Pure Poison can play.

So, here’s a story about Jennifer Marohasy. For those who don’t know the name, Dr Marohasy is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Public Afffairs (IPA), a conservative think-tank with ties to the Liberal Party. As well as producing IPA publications and writing a column in The Land, Jennifer has a blog that she refers to as an online community, despite allowing some of the most abrasive and personally insulting commentators in the blogosphere to comment freely.

It was on her blog last month that Jennifer published a claim that Bond University had dismissed an Adjunct Professor because he had published an article criticising the evidence for global warming. Dr Jon Jenkins published an op-ed in The Australian titled “The warmaholics’ fantasy”. I won’t discuss the flaws in the article here – it’s been done elsewhere by Graham Readfearn and Tim Lambert. Instead, let’s move on to the consequences of the article’s publication. Marohasy reported that:

For his opinion, Professor Jenkins received an official reprimand from the Bond University Registrar and then was informed last Friday that his adjunct status had been revoked.

She didn’t give any indication of her source of the information. She then elaborated on her view of what had happened:

No doubt he has contravened some rule or other at the University and no doubt this would have gone unnoticed if Professor Jenkins had a more popular opinion on these most politically charged subjects.

It’s interesting, and more than a touch ironic, that a scientific opinion writer who claims that we are not sceptical enough was happy to present an unsourced and unconfirmed claim while asserting that there was “no doubt” about what had happened, why it had happened, and what might have been different if Jenkins did not argue against the evidence for global warming.

Fortunately for those interested in the truth, someone was sceptical about Marohasy’s claims. Tim Lambert contacted Bond University and received the following explanation:

Dr Jenkins was a member of staff here for some considerable time and resigned to enter the NSW Parliament.

Dr Jenkins was asked to keep an association with University as an adjunct but indicated in 2008 that serious health problems would probably prevent him taking an active role. As a result Dr Jenkins was removed from the adjunct staff listing in 2008. An administrative oversight resulted in Dr Jenkins not being informed of this change in status.

Assertions that Dr Jenkins has been reprimanded and/or ‘dismissed’ are without foundation.

That cleared everything up. So, Marohasy could have just given her readers the accurate explanation and indicated she was wrong, right? Well, no. Instead, she felt the need to continue to suggest there was climate change politics at play:

That is, an administrative oversight resulted in Dr Jenkins not being informed of his change in status until after he published the controversial opinion piece in The Australian newspaper.

Perhaps if the piece had been more politically correct his name could have just been added back onto the list?

And then she went even further, visiting Lambert’s blog and insisting that “[g]iven you have previously very publicly accused Dr Jenkins of deceit on this issue I suggest you now issue him with a very public apology,” and began making false assertions that Lambert had claimed Jenkins had never held an adjunct position. But her most disingenuous statement was the following:

My original blog piece included both fact and opinion. You may disagree with my opinion (based on the facts and my world view), but the facts stand. Mr Lambert queried the facts unsuccessfully. His opinion (based on his world view), though, has not changed.

Marohasy claimed that “[f]or his opinion,” Jenkins was reprimanded and then dismissed – an assertion of fact that turned out to be wrong. She suggested there was “no doubt” that the university had done so on some technical violation that “no doubt” would have been overlooked if his views were different – and maintained that opinion even after the facts were clarified. When her description of the facts was shown to be wrong, she nonetheless managed to maintain her opinion.

“No Doubt” Marohasy, that is not the way a sceptic or a scientist should think. Your readers deserve better. And this sort of intellectual dishonesty should not be forgotten.

Andrew Bolt

Feb 19, 2009

5 comments

Andrew Bolt is a strident critic of the AGW theory (I don’t need to provide any links for that, do I?), so what is it with this post about the irony of global warming combating global warming?

Global warming may cut the very emissions we’re told cause global warming:

GLOBAL warming may be a worry to low-lying lands but Russia’s top weatherman said that warmer temperatures would help to cut heating bills in one of the world’s coldest countries. “The heating season will be reduced and this is a positive factor for us as it will allow us to economise on fuel,” Alexander Bedritsky, head of Russia’s state weather centre, said.

Which is it, Bolta? Warmening or no warmening?

(Thanks to Dam Buster of Preston)

Piers Akerman

Feb 19, 2009

5 comments

There are many, many theories about how best to educate children and they overlap, contradict and borrow from each other. The “silver bullet” of education is probably so elusive because no two children are the same and no two children will respond in the same way to the same teaching approach. This is what makes teaching so challenging and enjoyable: the constant need to assess one’s own methods against the unique needs of the 20-odd kids in the room and adjust accordingly.

Education policy is much the same, in that there is no one correct way to spend money on it. But that doesn’t stop keyboard warriors who haven’t been in a classroom since grade ten from lecturing the government about getting it all so terribly wrong.

Hi, Piers!

Mr Akerman reckons that the Rudd government is “shooting blanks” in every policy area, which makes his next metaphors about the government “shooting itself in the foot” and “slamming slugs into the working Australians it claims to represent” a bit bizarre given that Rudd apparently has blanks in the gun.

But anyway.

Piers sees in the education policy of the Rudd government nothing but a pernicious Leftist plot to redistribute wealth from “the hard-working and prudent to those who are, for whatever reason, in a worse financial position.” Piers doesn’t like education funding based on socio-economic demographics — because that’s, like, communist and stuff — instead preferring funding directed to low-achieving students. Doesn’t matter at all that there is a correlation between socio-economic status and academic performance. (That’s not to say that low socio-economic status is the only factor in low performance, or that it always equals low performance, but low academic performance is more prevalent in cohorts of students from low socio-economic backgrounds than those from higher socio-economic backgrounds.)

However, it isn’t long before Piers gets to the actual point of his piece.

Why is the Rudd Government so pigheadedly ignoring educational realities? The answer may lie in remarks Professor Dinham made to The Australian when he said that many people, including practising teachers, “still subscribe to, consciously or subconsciously, various forms of social determinism, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary”.

That is, they believe that kids are blighted by their post codes, by their heredity, by their parents’ income and approach their education from that perspective rather than looking at low performers and low-performing schools and trying to address their particular problems.

It’s the filthy, socialist teachers! Of course! If only those teachers voted Liberal everything would be okay!

But wait, there’s more. Kevin Rudd and his government make their education funding decisions (wrong decisions, by the way) because of the money that teachers’ unions “pump” in the ALP.

Teachers are often activists in their community and Labor panders to them – even when it means going along with a second-rate approach to education.

It’s a trifecta of evil: teachers, unions, Labor.

Basically, the short version of Piers’ article is that low-achieving students need extra education funding, and even though the Rudd government is attempting to do just that through increasing funding to student demographics that feature a high level of low-achieving students it’s wrong because of… well… just because. Unions, socialism, booga booga.

Whatever.

Andrew Bolt

Feb 18, 2009

5 comments

Last month Andrew Bolt made an oblique reference to Australia’s “writing class”, suggesting that some members of this nebulous group hate Australia.

It seems that some people of our writing class simply find it fashionable to take offence at their country…

But what exactly is this “writing class”, how does one apply for membership, and given that Bolta is almost certainly a member (I mean, he writes a lot) why is it okay for him to take offence at certain sections* of his country?

* People who believe in the theory of climate change, people who recycle, people who thought David Hicks shouldn’t have been held in Gitmo for so long without trial, people who wanted to say sorry to indigenous people etc. etc. ad infintium.

Andrew Bolt

Feb 18, 2009

5 comments

Andrew Bolt has a fantastically unfair go at Age columnist Ross Gittins this morning, following Gittins’ piece excoriating selective compassion.

Gittins leads into it in a fairly provocative way –

The outpouring of public concern over the terrible Victorian bushfires, the rush to give blood, the huge amount of donations, the efforts of governments to do all they can to help, the way business has swung behind the appeal for assistance – it makes you proud to be an Aussie.

Is that how you feel? I don’t. I find it all strangely disturbing and distasteful.

Why? Here’s the crux of Gittins’ article –

The reason I’m cynical is that I know how fleeting all the professed concern is. I hate things that are fashionable, where everyone has the same opinion and does the same thing at the same time.

But like all fashions, it never lasts. Our preoccupation lasts a week or two before the media senses our waning interest and turns away, waiting for the next natural disaster to get excited about.

Unlike those actually caught up in the disaster, our mourning is soon over and our grief quickly dries up. Our care is all care but no responsibility. Everyone wanted to give blood last week, but what the Red Cross needs and can’t get is enough people who’ll give blood regularly when it’s gone back to being unfashionable.

In his sanctimonious attack on Gittins, Andy of course doesn’t quote the above at all, or even refer to it. This is how he portrays Gittins’ article:

Sydney Morning Herald columnist Ross Gittins is disgusted that so many Australians have been so keen to help the victims of the fires…

Bolt completely omits the context made clear by the rest of Gittins’ article – that his disgust is for selective compassion that only arises for causes that make the TV, and that quickly dissipates, leaving a serious long-term gap. Andy continues:

And you know the people who’ve lined up to donate blood, or offered accommodation to the homeless, or organised fundraisers, or fed the firefighters, or raised collections for the orphaned, or sorted the donated goods, or counselled the bereaved, or pitched in to rebuild?

They’re sick…

And he quotes, out of context, another introductory clause from Gittins’ piece. And then encourages his readers to get stuck in:

Please don’t restrain your criticism of Gittins. Any pity you may feel for him is just a sign of your depravity.

You can guess where that went.

Andrew Bolt must have read Gittins’ article. He must have grasped the point Gittins was making. And there may well be a legitimate argument to be made with that point – for example, that perhaps selective compassion is better than none.

But Bolt is apparently not interested in a legitimate argument – he’s interested in a smear. Thus he outrageously misrepresents Gittens, opportunistically dragging out the parts of the article which appear to criticise compassion and pity whilst completely ignoring that the piece is arguing for compassion and pity to be more widespread, and longer-lasting. He portrays Gittins’ piece as the opposite of what it actually is, and relies on his readers not clicking on the link and finding out for themselves what Gittins actually said. He’s long sold them this lie about “elites” who have “contempt” for ordinary people, and twists this piece until it looks like an example of that.

And don’t his readers love it. Andrew Bolt appreciates our generosity! (Yay!) Andrew Bolt will stand up for bushfire victims against people who he implies are opposed to their receiving assistance! (Yay!) Ross Gittins is a Spencer St elitist who hates ordinary people! (Boo!) Ross Gittins hates the bushfire victims and wants them to suffer! (Boo!)

They don’t care that it’s not true. And neither, apparently, does Andy.

Yes, a fine example of Andrew Bolt’s shamelessly disingenuous approach to public debate, and the half-truths and misrepresentations he so regularly uses to attack opponents. And on the very day this site launches! Thanks, Andy.

Andrew Bolt

Feb 18, 2009

5 comments

Any primary school student (even the ones that go to those eeeeevil government “schools” that indoctrinate instead of teach) will tell you that “predict” means “have an educated and informed guess at something that can’t be known for sure”, and that “chance” means “the likelihood or probability of something happening”.

So when Andrew Bolt points and laughs at the evil AGW-promoting Bureau of Meteorology for making predictions about the chance of weather events occurring, even primary school kids drop their heads into their palms and groan.

The Bureau of Meteorology says we’ll get hotter over the next 25 years, thanks to global warming… That’s interesting. But let’s see how well the Bureau can predict not 25 years ago, but two months. Here’s its prediction from last month:

The chance of exceeding median rainfall over much of central and northern Queensland are between 20 and 40%, which means that these areas have a 60 to 80% chance of being drier than normal

Well done, Bolta. Clap, clap. What a stunning gotcha on the BOM. They predicted a 60-80% chance of drier than normal conditions and it actually flooded. What you conveniently ignore is that the BOM predicted a 20-40% chance of conditions not being drier than normal.

Here’s how the Bureau said we’ll get hotter over the next 25 years.

“By 2030 we expect temperatures will rise by about 1ºC over Australia compared with the climate of recent decades…”

See those words “we expect”, Andrew? You might have a point if they weren’t there.

Tim Blair

Feb 18, 2009

5 comments

A common cry of tim’s winged monkeys when anyone criticises his work is that the critic fails to understand what tim meant. His fans will argue that, even though the post might be short, lacking much substance, and filled with base mockery, race-baiting and unsubstantiated or illogical ramblings, underneath the surface lies evidence of the greatest satirical wit of the modern era. You just have to look past what he actually wrote and understand what he really meant.

So, let’s play a game of “Let’s interpret tim”. Blair has long been a critic of the Messianic Cult of Obama, and has collected the most absurd quotations he can find about people’s expectations of the new US President. That’s fair enough – so long as one doesn’t attempt to generalise from those quotes to suggest that all Democrats, liberals and lefties think Obama is a mystical transformative figure. But is tim now attributing God-like powers to Obama as well?

In a recent post, he appears to be suggesting that it’s a bad sign that a solar panel installation Obama toured before he signed the stimulus bill has a web page saying they don’t have any vacant positions at the moment, but that anyone who is interested in career opportunities should check back soon. Apparently, this is a sign that the (at time of writing) yet-to-be-signed stimulus bill and its yet-to-be-spent money isn’t working because it is yet to produce jobs.

Obviously, if we interpret tim’s post based on what he actually wrote we would conclude that it’s patently nonsensical. Effects have to come after causes. So, equally obviously, there must be a layer of satirical brilliance lurking beneath the 13 words tim wrote in that post. I ask you, dear readers, what on Earth does tim really mean?

Andrew Bolt

Feb 18, 2009

5 comments

I started An Onymous Lefty so I could stop boring my then wife at the dinner table with politics. I started BoltWatch so I could stop boring my then readers at An Onymous Lefty by inflicting the ranting of Herald Sun columnist Andrew Bolt on them. Subsequently, of course, it’s turned out that there are plenty of people who, far from being “bored” by such discussions, actually thrive on them…

It was February 2005. After a week in which retorts seemed to be required to four silly Boltesque diatribes – against feminism (Desperate Housewives is popular because it bashes men!), global warming (it flooded in Queensland, ergo the warmenistas have been proven wrong!), racism (imprisoning a white woman, Cornelia Rau, proves Australians aren’t racist!) and greenies (cyclists deserve to be hit by cars!) – setting up a separate site, where the columnist’s deranged polemic could be quarantined and laughed at without infecting public discourse any further, seemed like a sensible option.

If “drawing Bolt’s readers to your site so they can swarm abusively in defence of their maligned leader” is sensible, anyway. Funny thing about the more provocative and unreasonable of the mainstream opinionistas – on both sides of the political fence – they attract some very angry people to their cause. People thrilled to have their prejudices and half-baked worldview expounded in print. “He’s saying what I’ve been saying – only everyone I know groans and tells me to shut up when I say it! Well, he gets newspaper space to argue these things. My extremist view on the world has been legitimised! WHO’S LAUGHING NOW?”

Which makes them very difficult to ignore. Some crazed loon rants in the street, and you walk past shaking your head. The same crazed loon gets a page of the Herald Sun to himself once a week, and nurtures a vicious little community on the newspaper website – that’s harder to just let go. You know you probably should, but… if no-one says anything, won’t the madness spread? Won’t damaging, offensive, illogical, ridiculous arguments start to be taken more seriously if left alone to build momentum?

And that’s just when it’s badly thought-out attacks on policy or spiteful swipes at political groups in society. When they go after individuals, particularly far less powerful individuals without an equivalent forum for reply – when they pull a Landeryou or a Duncan – well, turning your head and walking on by seems even less defensible. If everyone just stands back and lets them intimidate easy targets from their keyboards, then they’ll keep doing it. Taking them on might be personally unwise, in the sense of offering an alternative mark, but it’s better than leaving them unchecked. Look the other way while they ravage Czechoslovakia, and bullies will soon have a go at Poland…

Anyway, sometimes their victims just need to know that they’re not alone, and that the anonymous hooting monkeys on these sites do not represent the wider community – even the wider online community. Most people are decent, and having an obvious place for them to congregate and reassure victims that others can see through the smears, can be an entirely constructive thing.

Which is another reason why BoltWatch gradually evolved into a group blog, the first being time. After it became apparent that I (since this had nothing to do with my job) didn’t have the free hours (nor, to be honest, the inclination) to keep up with the entirety of Andrew Bolt’s prolific output (he should bind it together and turn it into an unreadable book one day!), and after the success of a few guest posts from readers, it became obvious what should happen next. The site was relaunched in early 2008 as The Blair/Bolt Watch Project, with more writers and an extra target – Andrew’s News Ltd colleague Tim Blair.

(Tim and Andrew share a worldview, an employer, a single mind… the main difference is that Tim is a bit more cunning in how he goes after his targets. He posts one or two technically non-defamatory but provocative sentences at the end of a quote, and then leaves his commenters to do the dirty work for him. And boy, do they! I’m sure you’ll see some examples of it covered here soon.)

The Blair/Bolt Watch Project writers have been kept busy ever since.

And you know what? It’s not just a duty – taking these guys on is actually a pleasure. The columnists we’ve been watching – and the ones we’ll be adding to the roll at Pure Poison, from both the left and right – produce volumes of the stuff each week. A lot of it is so disingenuous, misleading, nasty or simply nonsensical that it’s extremely satisfying to send up. All that’s needed is a space in which to do it, and an audience that’s been looking for an antidote to this sort of malevolent intellectual dishonesty.

Welcome to Pure Poison.

Tim Blair

Feb 17, 2009

5 comments

At Pure Poison you will undoubtedly hear us refer repeatedly to Tim Blair’s winged monkeys. For an essential backgrounder on this blogospheric phenomenon you could do worse than to have a read of this.

A Tim Blair commenter in captivity

Site news

Feb 17, 2009

5 comments

Interaction is central to Pure Poison and we’re looking forward to chatting with you. Let us know if you’ve got a tip for a story, and jump in and get involved in the comments. We crave discussion and debate but please try to keep it civil. Enjoy!

— Jeremy, Scott, Tobias and Ant